The New Year: Going Back to School During COVID

Dr. Lyne Ssebikindu
Dr. Lyne Ssebikindu
Elementary school principal; Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction
A student wears gloves, holds their books, and a paper reading “back to school” surrounded by COVID-19 virus doodles.

How has Graduate School Changed because of COVID?

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that education has changed in many ways. Because of the newly pervasive virus variant, universities and colleges are experiencing staff shortages.  We are still experiencing schools closing for in-person learning and a pause in extracurricular activities due to the pandemic.

Schools are also now forced to address learning gaps. During virtual learning, students of all levels have missed out on their collaborative group time which is essential; colleges and schools are trying to find time to implement peer support.

As we continue through these challenging times, we have to ensure that teaching and learning continue to occur in schools.

Things to Consider Before Applying

Below are some of the things you need to consider before deciding to go back to school:

Safety

New instructional challenges and barriers to implementing COVID-19 prevention measures have affected teachers’ mental health. The mental health of the educator is linked to how effective they feel in their classroom.

With coronavirus cases surging, several states are suspending in-person learning. The current situation with the pandemic and the virus variants are putting states in a tough place. When it is safe, we must continue to have in-person learning experiences for students. Despite the challenges, we need to keep the students safe and learning.

The big question is, how do we move forward with all the barriers we are presently facing? Some would say constant collaboration; we are thankful for the constant collaboration between schools and the health department.

A Great Need

A lot of people say, “I want to make a difference.” This is a wonderful time to make a difference. Individuals need to step back and wonder about a career path they might have never considered because it is time to look at all possibilities. Look at your skillset and pursue that path; identify the areas you want to develop, find out what you are good at, and seek those areas by furthering your education.

According to recent guidance from the Tennessee Department of Education, the criteria that confirm the lowest-performing schools is in process. There is a great need for graduate schools to start preparing their students to address this challenge because states are restarting the accountability piece since the pandemic and students will continue to be tested in reading, math, and science.

Mental Health

Schools also need to provide mental health support, and students need to know how to access mental health services. Universities can have a significant impact on mental health and students’ understanding of the subject.

Research by the National Association of School Psychologists shows that students are more likely to seek counseling when resources are available at school. From the research they gathered, they also concluded that students who receive social, emotional, and mental health support achieve better academically.

Technology

During the pandemic, a lot of emphasis was put on virtual learning. Students learned to use technology in ways they had never done before. One of the advantages of enrolling in a graduate program is that we have a new look and opportunity of using technology which gives a better learning experience for students.

Educators have a great opportunity of using technology and incorporating strategies that include:

We have more opportunities for learning gains than we did last year, and this is because students have more access to materials online than last year. As we begin in 2022, students are going to experience new platforms; colleges, states, and students better understand using technology than they did before.

Strategies for Success as a Grad Student During COVID

Several colleges are moving to remote or virtual learning, but research indicates face-to-face instruction is beneficial for students. States and colleges are forced to make adjustments to keep students learning. For example, several states are distributing at-home COVID-19 rapid tests for staff and students.

Below are some of the strategies for success as a graduate student during COVID:

Online Programs

A majority of colleges offer fully online programs which can be the best option for some students amidst this pandemic.

Engaging Programs

Universities are offering interactive courses that are engaging for students and allow students to be independent.

Learning Supports

Colleges need to have learning support for students, and schools need to establish a committee to address learning and teaching.

Peer Tutoring

The pandemic has affected people in different ways; students need tutoring to address the learning loss.

Curriculum

Schools need to revisit, alter the course of their curriculum, and analyze what was working before the pandemic and what adjustments must be made.

Mental Health Issues

A lot of students have been affected by the pandemic. It is extremely beneficial when colleges address mental health among the students.

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